Being 2old2play’s resident pinball expert (I own three pinball tables) and WiiU owner, I was tapped to review Zen Pinball’s Star Wars Pinball tables for WiiU when 2o2p scored a review copy. Are the tables worth it for either hardcore Star Wars or Pinball fans? Read on for my take.
I dusted off my WiiU and was immediately reminded of its slow and terrible interface. After I entered the DLC code, I couldn’t find any indication anywhere that it was downloading or tell what the heck was happening. Eventually, about 20 minutes later, an icon just magically appeared on the menu. Way to boost my confidence in cloud gaming Nintendo!
Zen released three tables in the first pack at a $9.99 price point with plans to add more. The tables included were Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars; each with their own layouts, rules, and toys. All were original virtual table designs and weren’t based on any of the handful of actual Star Wars pins you might find in arcades.
During game setup you must choose either the Galactic Empire or Rebel Alliance side of the conflict which factors into online leaderboards and gaining points for your side. I wasn’t ready to play for team dark side but enough tilts and its probably best to keep me away from the younglings just in case! I found the whole thing kind of hokey but it's easy enough to just ignore.
Okay so it wasn’t quite as hokey as this!
The first table I played was Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. I was HORRIFIED when they narrated the scrolling yellow text out loud in the intro movie. Isn’t it a cardinal rule of Star Wars that you read, not listen to, the scrolling yellow text?! The table was decent and sort of reminded me a bit of the actual Data East table with the original trilogy theme from the early 90’s. It features stages that unlock scenes from the movies and then aims to replicate pieces of them on the table (which was a neat mechanic). It also features a giant lightsaber that moves the ball across the table which was cool the first time but mostly annoying after that.
My favorite of the three, Boba Fett, was up next. I liked the theme (bonus points for the use of the jet backpack to fly around the table and Han Solo in Carbonite!) and the layout of the table. This table was the easiest of the three to follow where the ball actually was without it jumping around too much.
Last up was The Clone Wars. This theme surfaced long after I gave up on the Star Wars franchise so I’m not really familiar with it. The table was decent but definitely the one I played the least. It seemed short on space and it was difficult to follow the ball around.
The WiiU version promised integration with the touchpad controller so I was curious what that brought to the table. Compared to a PS or XBox controller, I do like the shape and size of the WiiU controller better for pinball simulation but none of the other special integration features really did much for me.
You may also choose to play on either the TV or the controller as your main view. It’s nice if you want to play on the controller and have a receiver and someone else wants to watch TV. As far as being a closer simulation to actual pinball, I like the view of the table at arms length as opposed to across the room. I usually play video games with my husband and we’d swap rounds with games like Star Wars Pinball. I was annoyed that if we switched to the controller as the main view all it displayed on the TV screen was the menu background. What’s the point of that?! The menu backgrounds also tended to be somewhat annoying with a lot flashing and motion that drew your eye towards it.
Another integration feature is the dot matrix display area and other messages for each table would pop up zoomed in on the gamepad while playing on the TV. I could never find a way to look at the TV and the gamepad at the same time. Although I also have a hard time watching actual dot matrix displays on real tables too.
If you want to play pinball on a console I’d say go for the WiiU. I like both Zen and the WiiU controller for virtual pinball. In general, I played other Zen tables I liked a lot better than these. I also enjoyed playing on my phone and the MOGA android controller better than with a console setup. For me, it’s the whole focus on the “table” in front of me versus being in a big room with a big distance and a big TV. It just doesn’t quite feel right for pinball to me.
If you like Zen Pinball and want more tables, these new tables are decent, especially if you are a Star Wars fan (I am, though a lot less so after Episodes 1-3). If you are on the fence you can probably wait for a sale.